Flowerpot Design Tip: A Simple Way to Take Your Flowers From “Meh” to “Wow!”

by | Updated: Jul 28, 2021

A simple flowerpot design tip to make your flowerpots look pretty

Looking for an easy design tip to make your flowerpots look prettier this summer?

Combine flowers of different heights.

Think of a city skyline or a beautiful mountain range. There are different layers that make things interesting, right?

The same is true for the flowers in your flowerpots.

Planting flowers of different heights can help you create a lot of visual interest.

In gardening lingo, this design concept is known as thrillers, fillers and spillers.

  • Thrillers are your tall flowers.
  • Fillers are your shorter flowers.
  • Spillers are your flowers that spill out of the flower pot.

Examples of thrillers, fillers and spillers in two colorful flowerpots of flowers

But if you find these words confusing or hard to keep straight, then…

Think about this flowerpot design tip in western terms.

You want your flowerpots to have mountains, foothills and waterfalls.

Your mountains are your tall flowers that add height and a strong focal point to your flowerpots. For example, you could use a tall ornamental grass or a gorgeous red canna lily, like the one pictured below. (Just like the mighty peaks in a mountain range, these tall flowers are your thrillers.)

A red canna lily is a great example of a thriller flower in a flowerpot

Your foothills are your shorter flowers that add interesting textures or pops of color, like the yellow Marguerite daisies below. (These flowers fill your flowerpots.)

A simple flowerpot design tip: Include filler flowers like these marguerite daisies to add color and texture

And your waterfalls are your flowers that spill out of your flowerpots and cascade down the sides, like the light-green licorice plant and lime-green sweet potato vine in the photo below. (These flowers are your spillers.)

Make your flowerpots prettier with spiller flowers that cascade out of a flowerpot like a waterfall

When you go to the garden center, how do you know whether a flower will make a good mountain, foothill or waterfall?

1. Look at the plant tag to check your flower’s final height.

Often times, the size of the flower in the garden center is only a fraction of how big that flower will grow by the end of the summer.

For example, a flower that’s about 8” tall in the garden center may grow several feet tall over the summer!

When you pick up flowers at the garden center, check their plant tags to see how tall they’ll grow.

If you pick up a flower that grows 14” to 36” tall, it could make a great mountain.

Flowers that aren’t quite as tall — 6” to 14” in height — can make great foothills.

Keep in mind, the height suggestions above are just that: Suggestions! Gardening is personal, so you can do whatever looks good to you.

2. Notice which direction the plant is growing.

Even in the garden center, you can usually tell whether a flower is growing upright or growing down.

If you hold up a plant that seems to be trailing from its container, it could be a great flower to spill from your flowerpots like a waterfall. The pink petunias below are a good example.

When looking for spiller flowers for flowerpots, look for flowers that naturally trail from their containers

For this flowerpot design tip to work, do you have to include mountains, foothills AND waterfalls?

This is a matter of personal preference.

Personally, I love all three together.

But you can definitely go with just two.

The flowerpots below are hanging in my neighbor’s yard. The pots are small, so she just used foothills and waterfalls. She didn’t have enough room for all three.

You don't need thrillers, fillers and spillers in pots. It's okay to include just two of these design ideas.

And the flowerpot below is really big, but the gardener made a strong statement with just mountains and foothills.

An example of a western flowerpot with thrillers and fillers.

If you liked this flowerpot design tip, you may also like:

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the intermountain west get more confident with flower gardening, so you can create an outdoor space you love. More about Ann >>

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